Located in the small town of Peach Bottom, PA, Stoltzfus Forest Products was established in 1990 by Samuel Stoltzfus, father to Benuel Stoltzfus, who currently manages the business. This family-run sawmill has evolved from humble beginnings to become a thriving force in the Hardwood industry.
The story began when Samuel, a dairy farmer with a fascination for sawmills, decided to delve deeper into this interest. During the quieter periods on the farm, he took a big step and acquired a small mill. At first, he ran the mill in tandem with the daily demands of dairy farming. Orders started coming in, thus, in 1990, Stoltzfus Forest Products was created.
Since its modest beginnings, Stoltzfus Forest Products has undergone significant growth. In 2016, the company made a substantial move by purchasing a 10-acre property, to which they relocated their mill. Today, Stoltzfus Forest Products provides a range of Hardwoods, including Poplar, Red and White Oak, Walnut, Hickory, Soft Maple and Cherry. With an annual production capacity of 10.5 million board feet through the mill and 3.5 million board feet through the dry kilns, the company consistently delivers top-notch lumber to their customers. Their products include No. 2 Common and Better lumber, which accounts for approximately 70 percent of their output. The remaining 30 percent is dedicated to various specialty orders, such as railroad ties, pallet cants, industrial blocking, and mat timbers. They also handle special requests from local woodworkers and farmers in need of custom-cut pieces for projects like wagons. “We are drying the upper grades and selling the lower. We don’t dry much No. 2 Common at all. Walnut would be the only thing that we are drying in No. 2 Common. The other species in No. 2 Common are sold green,” Benuel added.
While they used to work with Ash, it has seen a large decline in recent years. “I would say at this point we are 90 percent 4/4, and the other 10 percent is 5/4 to 16/4. When we put the kilns in two years ago it kind of changed the thicknesses we dry. We are heavier to 4/4 to better accommodate our current markets, as well as quicken our production time since it goes through the kilns faster,” Benuel commented.
Located in the southeastern region of Pennsylvania, in Lancaster County, Stoltzfus Forest Products sources its logs from the surrounding areas. “We will go up to 120 miles for a nice piece of timber. It must be good quality and good timber to go that far. The majority are less than 50 miles. Lancaster county doesn’t have a whole lot of timber, so we don’t get a lot of timber out of our county. It’s more out of York County across the river to the west and Chester County to the east and then we get quite a bit of timber out of Maryland. I think we get more timber out of Maryland than we do Pennsylvania,” Benuel added.
In terms of storage, the company utilizes around 12,000 square feet of dry storage, although some of this space houses equipment. Additionally, they have approximately 14,000 square feet of dry storage at another yard. Stoltzfus also uses Breeze Dried Sticks to prepare lumber stored on the yard. Looking ahead, they have plans to expand with two new buildings, a 12,000 square foot warehouse, and a 36,000 square foot production building, expected in 2025.
Stoltzfus Forest Products boasts a diverse team of dedicated employees, many of whom come from the local Amish community, celebrated for their strong work ethic. The leadership team includes the general manager, Benuel Stoltzfus, as well as Samuel Stoltzfus, responsible for sawdust sales and truck loading. Abner and Henry, both of whom are Benuel’s brothers, play crucial roles in the company. Abner oversees the mulch operation and manages log procurement, including logging activities, while Henry serves as the mill maintenance supervisor and has prior experience on the Head Saw; he also manages parts inventory and oversees the filing room. Other valuable team members include Levi King, who manages dry storage and the processing of kiln-dried lumber, and Phillip Smith, responsible for kiln-dried lumber sales. Omar King holds the position of grading and lumber quality supervisor, ensuring high-quality standards in grading and yield processes. In addition to these crucial roles, Melvin, the youngest brother, contributes by loading and unloading kilns and serving as a sawyer. Amos Beiler, the log yard manager and production manager, oversees the two hour shift schedule, managing the logistics of both the mill and dry storage. His responsibilities include coordinating schedules, ensuring efficient operations and filling in for absent team members when necessary. Jane Morrissiey is responsible for overseeing accounting and the office.
The company uses an effective method of cross training its employees. As Benuel Stoltzfus, the general manager, explains, “We break the eight-hour day into four two-hour shifts, ensuring that our team members rotate through different positions regularly. Every two hours, they transition to a new role, from head sawyers to re-sawyers and more. It’s a system that keeps everyone on their toes and makes for a well-rounded team.”
Stoltzfus Forest Products is equipped with an impressive array of machinery and equipment to support their lumber manufacturing operations. Their arsenal includes the Mellott Mfg. Rosser Head with butt reducer, a Nicholson Ring debarker, a Hurdle Linear Carriage with Lewis Controls, a TS Manufacturing Band Head Rig, a Hurdle Resaw, Pendu Edger, and a Pendu trimmer. They’ve also invested in a Mellott Mfg. grading station, further enhancing their quality control processes. In addition to these, they rely on John Deere wheel loaders and Taylor forklifts, along with Rotochopper grinders for their mulch yard operations. The company boasts three SII Dry Kilns, comprising two 40,000-foot kilns and one 50,000-foot kiln. Notably, they utilize a Newman Planer for plaining needs and a Gillingham-Best Lumber Stacking System. Much of their log and lumber handling equipment is from Mellott Mfg., including the tilt hoist and conveyors.
Some of the company’s notable recent additions is a state-of-the-art Walnut steamer and a four blade ripsaw, both installed in 2023. “So, far from when we put the kilns in, in early 2021 until now, we have been shipping our Walnut out to other companies for our products to be customed steamed. The biggest problem was trucking. We handled the trucking that shipped this product to another facility to get it steamed and then bring it back, so we ordered a steamer back in the middle of last year to help speed up our production and cut down on costs,” Benuel remarked. “The new four blade ripsaw has also allowed us to speed up our production on the ripped to width and provide this product to more of our customers.”
Stoltzfus Forest Products excels because they control every aspect of the lumber production process. “We are able to control the quality from the standing tree the whole way to the local wood shop. We are doing every step. We’ve got logging crews, our own foresters, and we are helping landowners cut the timber and bring it here, the whole way through the process to a kiln-dried, surfaced, ripped to width product. We think that it’s important to be able to do that and be able to control the quality,” Benuel commented.
They exhibit their products at trade shows like the Eastool Expo and participate in industry associations such as the American Walnut Manufacturers Association, the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association and the National Hardwood Lumber Association.
For more information visit www.stoltzfusforestproducts.net.